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  • At 60 seconds, the recording STOPS. It cuts off. It ends. So be sure to include all the details you need before the 60 second mark.
  • Your preparation time begins as soon as you hear the prompt, and your answer time begins as soon as your 20 second preparation time is done.
  • For question 5 you have 20 seconds to prepare your answer and 60 seconds to give your answer.
  • This dialogue is about a problem one person is having, and two possible solutions to fix that problem.
  • For TOEFL Speaking question 5 you ONLY listen to a dialogue between two people.

General Strategies for TOEFL Speaking Question 5

TOEFL Speaking Question 5 is an integrated question. This means you must listen to a resource before answering the question.

Some additional pieces of important information:

  1. Question 5 is a UNIQUE question: the FIRST half of your answer will be OBJECTIVE, and the SECOND half will be SUBJECTIVE. This means you use the terms “he”, “she”, “it” in the first half, and “me”, “my”, and “I” in the second half.

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Note-Taking Strategies for TOEFL Speaking Question 5

  1. BEFORE you do anything else, WRITE DOWN the structure for your notes. When taking notes on the dialogue, FIRST write down the problem, THEN write down the two solutions.
  2. After the dialogue is finished, look at the computer screen and focus on the prompt. What do you have to do? Look back at your notes, label what’s necessary, and find the info in your notes. ALSO, circle the solution YOU would choose, and draw an arrow to the RIGHT side of the t-chart. With your 20 seconds of preparation time, write down a few notes about a personal story that relates to the solution you chose.

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Example Response (including transcript of the dialogue)


  • Female student: How’s the calculus class going? You’re doing better?
  • Male student: Not really. I just can’t get the hang of it. There are so many functions and formulas to memorize, you know? And the final…it’s only a few weeks away. I’m really worried about doing well.
  • F: Oh…You know, you should go to the tutoring program and ask for help.
  • M: You mean, in the Mathematics building?
  • F: Ya. Get a tutor there. Most tutors are doctoral students in the math program. They know what they’re talking about, and for the final test, you know, they’d tell you what to study, how to prepare, all of that.
  • M: I know about the program…but doesn’t it cost money?
  • F: Of course. You have to register and pay by the hour…but they’ve got all the answers.
  • M: Hmm…
  • F: Another option, I guess, is to form a study group with other students. That won’t cost you any money.
  • M: That’s a thought…although once I was in a study group, and it was a big waste of time. We usually ended up talking about other stuff like what we did over the weekend.
  • F: But that was for a different class, right? I’ve actually had some pretty good experiences with study groups. Usually, students in the same class have different strengths and weaknesses with the material…if they’re serious about studying, they can really help each other out. Think about it.


Briefly summarize the problem the speakers are discussing. Then state which solution you would recommend. Explain the reasons for your recommendation.


P: What’s the problem?

  • Calculus = bad

1 – First solution

  • Private tutor

2 – Second solution

  • Group study

C – Which solution you would choose, and why?

  • Private Tutor – Experience with both private tutor/group study. Private tutor more effective. Organic chem. Better grade.

YOUR Response:

In the dialogue, the man has a problem. He is doing really bad in calculus class. To help him out, the woman suggests two solutions: either find a private tutor or join a group study. I would choose to get a private tutor if I was in the man’s situation. Although the private tutor is more expensive, I believe the extra money would be worth spending. One time while at University, I took an organic chemistry class. I was doing very bad. I decided to pay for a private tutor to help me and, after just a few weeks, my grades went up a lot. For this reason, I would choose to use a private tutor.


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Answer Strategies for TOEFL Speaking Question 5

  1. Want to make sure you NEVER blank on TOEFL Speaking Question 5 and that you ALWAYS have an opinion to share? Here’s the thing: If you tell a story related to why you would choose one of the solutions, you will have PLENTY of information to talk about. Story-telling comes natural to almost every human, and so, when we use story-telling, we almost never blank on an answer.
  2. Spend 10 seconds on the problem of the dialogue, 15-20 seconds on the two solutions and about 30  seconds on which solution you would choose and WHY
  3. Be enthusiastic with your response. TOEFL graders do NOT want to hear a bored robot. Inject some life into it!
  4. REMEMBER to speak both objectively AND subjectively. The first half of your response will be objective (explaining the problem and two solutions) and the second half will be subjective (which solution you would choose and a personal story as to WHY).
  5. MAKE SURE to include all THREE requirements: the problem, the two solutions, and which solution you would choose and why. The most COMMON mistake for question 5 is forgetting to include all three parts. This may be preventing you from getting as high of a score as you want.

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What You Must Do Next

  1. You MUST record yourself: This is especially important if you continue to go over the 60 second time limit.
  2. Find a speaking partner: There are a number of websites and forums where you can find speaking partners to help correct your mistakes. One note, however: non-native speaking partners will only be able to fix the BIG problems. It will be VERY difficult for them to help fix pronunciation, grammar, and other problems that require a native speaker.
  3. Hire a TOEFL Speaking Teacher: If FAST progress is important for you, or if you REALLY need to get a HIGH score, then I recommend hiring a TOEFL Speaking Teacher. I offer a 30 minute TOEFL Speaking Evaluation. This is the best deal on the entire internet for getting personal, professional help with your TOEFL Speaking score.

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Extra Prompts for Question 5

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